When editor Jake Roberts first heard about the movie Brooklyn, he was at first hesitant to take the job of editor, because he assumed the story was about a hipster rom-com. Little did he know it was a Nick Hornby script, based on a Colm Toibin novel, set in the 1950s. But he “quickly re-calibrated, and read the script twice for tone.” The script was incredibly moving and he was also interested in the project, because he was “keen to work on a film from a female perspective and not be typecast.” Up until the movie Brooklyn, Roberts had been working on rougher, somewhat macho films such as Starred Up (2013), starring Ben Mendelsohn as a career criminal and the father of a violent teenager and the disturbing, sadistic movie, The Riot Club (2014).
Brooklyn, on the other hand, is a slowly unfolding immigration story of a young woman named Eilis (beautifully played by Saoirse Ronan), who travels to New York to live as a modern woman. Heart wrenching homesickness nearly cripples her daily work life, until a kind elderly priest counsels her and she starts dating a young man. However, just as she is settling in to her new American life, she is called back to Ireland for an emergency and is caught between her two worlds.
Having been raised in Europe, Roberts felt a special kinship for the material. As the son of a screenwriter, he learned early to serve as a production assistant, lighting assistant and art department assistant. When he was a teenager he was trained on the Avid, and 18 years later, here we are. He hadn’t intended to become an editor, but thought the training experience would be helpful. Indeed it was when he was initially left to his own devices while cutting the film first in Dublin while the crew was over two hours away in County Wexford. Since he was given the dailies on a 24 hour delay, director John Crowley would take a look at them only once a week. They would watch together at the end of the week and Crowley would give him a few notes. This was the process for eight weeks, after which they were together all day, every day.
For Roberts, one of the more challenging aspects of the edit was the first assembly of the scene on the boat when Eilis is waving goodbye to her family. The location was just a brutally constrained space, forcing extremely tight shots. The material was very strong however, so he never had to force anything. He just kept looking for the whole truth of the emotion, making sure to keep the pulse underneath it. He reveals that most of the time he didn’t want to cut away from Saoirse’s incredibly expressive face, a visage which illuminated the journey for the filmmakers.
Post Brooklyn, Roberts hopes to continue to work on varied projects. For example, he was working with director Steve McQueen on a Burberry campaign, when one drunken Tuesday night he and McQueen stumbled into Kanye West at a pub. Before he knew it, he was working on West’s new video. Roberts remembered when he was younger that his Dad told him he needed to network in this business. Clearly that’s how you get things done around here.